What do Jennifer Lawrence, Kaley Cuoco, Jenny McCarthy, Rihanna, and Mary-Kate Olson all have in common? Their photos and those from more than a hundred other A-List female celebrities were leaked online after being hacked. But so were the photos of many regular Americans as well.
If there’s a lesson from 2014, it’s that nothing is really private once technology is involved. Welcome to the space where technology and privacy collide.
This August Hollywood was rocked when news broke that more than a hundred actresses and a couple of male stars had their personal photos –capturing their private moments- stolen and posted online for all to enjoy. Most of the targets were females and some like model Kate Upton had taken nude selfies on their iPhones which stored the photos on iCloud, Apple’s storage service. Online storage is a hackers playground. Apple and Google are still in hot water with the actresses who threatened to file a $100 million lawsuit.
There have also been stories of teachers –just regular people – whose personal, racy pictures were uploaded to iCloud and accidentally accessed by their students. That’s a career ender right there.
The problem is hacks constantly occur. Hackers aren’t just looking for our photos either. We saw high-profile hackers attack retail giants, including Target and Home Depot jeopardizing the private data of over 100 million Americans.
As a result we saw investigations into these leaks and hacks and legislation emerge from both the House and Senate to protect the personal data of children and regular Americans. Such discussions have been deferred until after the New Year. As we turn the page to 2015 we can expect that the new Congress will follow-through on their inquisitions.
Lawmakers can only do so much though. At best they can enact standards around notifying people after their data has been stolen. Perhaps this issue, like others, is really about practicing common sense on a personal level.
NBC News gives sage advice:
It's not like this is anything new… To protect yourself, at least somewhat, experts gave the same advice you've probably heard before: Consider whether you really want to store private or potentially incriminating pictures on the Internet in the first place…
It's inconvenient — of course it is. But it's simply a fact, [Mark Rasch of Rasch Technology and Cyberlaw, who's a former director of the Justice Department's Computer Crime Unit] said, that if you take an embarrassing photo and put it on the Web, "it's going to make it places you don't want it to be."
That’s the best advice as we go into 2015.
Undoubtedly, there will be more hacks of our private information gleaned when we are patronizing trusted retailers and restaurants. There’s also a chance that your private photos may be stolen by a hacker thousands of miles away or from a vindictive ex thumbing through your phone and email.
We don’t blame the celebrities for the naughty pictures they took being stolen anymore than we’d blame someone whose jilted lover does the same. However, we have to consider the choices we make when dealing with technology. Even if you don’t post photos publically, there’s always a possibility that they’ll appear when and where we least expect them.
We should take precautions to protect our data and use common sense about what we capture. Anything we snap or film may very well be released without our knowledge and anything we say may get quoted, tweeted, or shared without our permission. Just ask Jonathan Gruber.